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High School Softball: Astros rout Bulldogs, win second straight regional title

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Shepard players celebrate after beating Richards 12-0 in the Mother McAuley Regional championship game on May 25. Photo by Jason Maholy

By Jason Maholy
Sports Editor

Shepard had never won a regional championship prior to 2018.

Now, the Astros are back-to-back regional champs.

Katie Justin hit a grand slam and drove in five runs, Bridget McDermott threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout, and Shepard got contributions from up and down the roster as they trounced South Suburban Conference rival Richards, 12-0 in five innings, in the title game of the Mother McAuley Regional on May 25.

“It’s a great feeling,” Astros coach Kelly Clifford said of winning consecutive regional crowns. “We’ve got a great group of kids and they set goals one game at a time, and they’re checking them off and getting things done. So, I’m very proud of them, they’ve put in a lot of hard work.”

Justin, a senior shortstop, belted a grand slam in the second inning. The four-year varsity player had never hit a fence-clearing home run, or a grand slam.

“The heat of the moment got into it,” Justin said of coming to the plate with the bases juiced. “I had to hit something, I had to put the ball in play.”

Justin didn’t know the ball had cleared the fence until she rounded first base.

“No one was running and I was confused, and then I realized it went over,” she said. “That was really big.”

Clifford agreed, and while she expects Justin to come through in key situations, she wasn’t expecting a grand slam.

“She’s not a home run hitter, to be honest, so to see her do that was great,” Clifford said. “She is the most competitive kid I have, she’s hungry and she’s always after it.”

Hungry in literal and figurative sense, perhaps?

“I yelled at her, ‘Hit something and I’ll buy you a pizza,’” Clifford laughed. “I could have said anything, it was just random, and she just gave me a laugh and hit that out and it was a great feeling. It just really gave us that momentum.”

The cushion the big blow provided made McDermott more comfortable in the circle.

“As soon as I came out to pitch I felt 1,000 times better,” she said. “I knew we had to get it done.”

Abby Horton, Ella Aleman and Ellison McGovern also drove in runs for Shepard.

The Astros season got off to a tough start, with three starters including McDermott going down with injuries before the season was a week old. The absence of three experienced bats in the lineup, however, forced the team’s younger players to step up.
Shepard starts four freshman and one sophomore.

“We were excited coming into the season, we knew we had a lot of talent, but we started with three key injuries and we needed to find success without those big bats,” Clifford said. “As soon as we got things rolling the (younger) girls saw they could do it without them. That really helped our freshman grow up, get big, and realize they needed to step up and get some stuff done.”

Justin is confident the Astros can keep winning.”

“I think we have a really great vibe right now,” she said. “Everyone’s here and everyone wants to be here and everyone’s excited every day. We just have to stay together and work together.”

The Astros were scheduled to face Riverside-Brookfield in the Marist Sectional semifinals on Wednesday, May 29. The Bulldogs defeated Oak Lawn 5-0 in the title game of the Hinsdale Regional.

ROUNDUP
Class 4A
Marist defeated Lyons 6-0 in the Morton Regional championship game. Angela Zedak allowed one hit and struck out nine in five innings, and helped her own cause with a double and two RBI. Cassie Lindmark has three hits, including two doubles, and two RBI.

Sandburg defeated Willowbrook 9-1 in the Hinsdale South Regional championship game.

Class 3A
St. Laurence topped Hancock 10-0 in five innings in the St. Laurence Regional title game.

Nazareth defeated Solorio 15-0 in five innings for the Nazareth Regional title.

De La Salle beat Evergreen Park 8-3 in the championship game of the Evergreen Park Regional.

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